I have known Amanda for most of my life. I am not even sure how old I was when we first met, but I have memories of hanging out with her from back when I was in early elementary school. Our families were good friends, and for a time our Dads were partners in the boat we kept out at Canyon Lake. Trips to the lake, the river, to Enchanted Rock… those were the good days.
We all knew each other through the church, and I have many memories of get togethers at people’s houses were all the kids were running around having a ball while the adults played dominoes. One of my earlier memories of Amanda is a bit embarrassing, but I’ll share it all the same. We were at the McHaney’s house, at the kind of gathering I just mentioned. Lots of kids were running around with minimal supervision, having tons of fun. On this night, however, some conflict of interest arose between Amanda and me. I don’t even remember what it was about, only that she wanted me to do something (or perhaps stop doing something) and I refused.
She threatened to spit in my face, I turned to face her, daring her. To my complete surprise, she actually did spew a spray of spit right at my face. She beamed triumphantly for only a second. At seven or eight (however old I was) I was no Atticus Finch. More like Ace Ventura. I hocked a big one and spat right back. I will never forget the sight of her, in shock and horror, leaning way forward with a loogie hanging from her nose, trying to keep it from dripping onto her clothes. I then ran off with my friend Nick, who congratulated me on a decided victory. This was some serious Calvin and Hobbes kind of stuff.
Amanda was always a pretty good sport. She was easy going, open to adventures, and very forgiving. She didn’t even tell on me for spitting at her that day. I apologized to her later in life about it, and she remembered it well. But she had long ago forgiven it. I never knew Amanda to hold a grudge, or stay angry about anything for very long. She seemed to just want to enjoy her life, and the idea that certain things were irresponsible or somehow bad was often foreign to her. She was not at all an immoral person; she just didn’t always care about the little stuff that other people often get all twisted up about.
So many times throughout our lives I remember Amanda telling me about something she was doing only to ask afterwards, “Is that bad?” As if she knew that some people might judge her for it, but she wasn’t really sure why. Sometimes she was genuinely concerned that she might be doing something wrong and just not know it, other times it was with a shrug, like whatever. She was always open to advice, though, and she often came to people she knew to share concerns and get feedback. She was an excellent listener, and underneath her carefree demeanor, she was a sensitive soul.
I learned this more as we got older. When I was sixteen, Amanda was my first kiss. It was in Acuna Mexico. I stole all my moves from my friend Robby, who had dated Amanda up until his senior year. They had only recently broken up when I started dating Amanda, but I still feel bad about moving in on a girl whom he still cared for. I had never had a girlfriend though, and I don’t suppose there was anything more in the world that I wanted at that time than a girlfriend. Amanda made sure to check that my intentions were to declare my feelings publicly and make the whole thing official, to which I gladly consented.
We dated for only about three months, but for me, that was a pivotal time. I had only had a driver’s license for a short time, and I was leaping with great enthusiasm into youth and freedom. Having a girlfriend suited me well, I decided. Amanda and I remained abstinent throughout our relationship, though we explored with affection and she helped me familiarize myself with that energetic dance. I say this with all respect, and with the belief that it’s important that these things be acknowledged. Our youth group experience was a semi-sexually active time for most of us, when we abstained from actual intercourse but practiced exploring our bodies and desires with restraint.
And of course, beyond the thrills of making out, we had tons of fun. Going to movies, going out to the lake, or just hanging out at each others’ houses watching movies or getting into antics. Those were good times.
My breakup with Amanda was shameful, completely on my end. As many of you may remember, I had something of a rivalry with another guy in the youth group, Brad. When Amanda innocently and dutifully reported that she had hung out with him one night until one in the morning at Sonic (while I was trying to reach her) I flipped out and yelled at her and broke up with her. She cried and I didn’t, though I later realized that what I had done was immature and unkind. Even then, Amanda and I stayed friends. She moved off to college in Arkansas and I stayed in San Antonio, still in high school. Amanda and I remained friends throughout life. We were friends long before we tried being a couple, and friends was the most natural role for us.
There were many times when our residency in San Antonio would overlap. We hung out at David Irvin’s place, at the Oak Terrace place that Phillip and I shared for a while, or at Amanda’s house. Her parents still live in the house that I would come and visit in high school. Then, not long after I got married, by buddy Justin married Amanda’s sister Emily. I saw her several times in those later years, even after she was living in Alaska. I hung out with Amanda and her husband Luke on several occasions, though I never really got to know Luke one on one very well. My condolences to him, all the same.
Compared to all the time we had together growing up, Amanda and I didn’t see each other very often after we both moved away from home, but we always did get together whenever we were both in town, and our talks would often go long into the night. I remember one night in 13 I went over to her house really late, so we went out to the park in her neighborhood to talk. She had been going through some trouble with her marriage, which was on the verge of ending. We talked at length about it, and I did my best to encourage and support her. I really felt for her in that struggle.
I saw her only a few more times after that. The last time was in 2015. It was late again, so we just hung out in her parent’s driveway and talked. Had I known it would be the last time I would see her, I would have hugged her for longer before I left. But these are things we can seldom know.
I was greatly rocked by the news of Amanda’s death. I was driving through Maine when I got a call from Justin and Emily. Through tears, Emily told me that Amanda had been killed in a car accident in Alaska, where she has been living for many years now. She was 36.
I have yet to really come to terms with this. Amanda was someone very dear to my heart. I have loved her in a way that speaks to the power of human relationship, for most of my life. She was my sister, my family. We lived fairly different lives, but in many ways, we saw things the same way. Amanda was never shocked or distressed by the intensity of the message that I’ve been bringing since my career began. She got me in many ways that others do not.
She and I shared many musical and philosophical tastes as we grew into adulthood, favoring underground, authentic, gritty artists from Slug to Tool, and of course, all the favorites we had known from growing up. Amanda and I were part of children’s musicals, and a high school choir that went on tour every summer. It was a good scene to grow up, with many friends that we had all known since we were young. Amanda was a wonderful singer. Music came naturally to her, and she was in choir in school and with our church. We all sang together, as friends. That was a part of our upbringing that really helped us to bond.
Much love to my people back home. I can’t name them all, but I can spout some. The McHaney’s the Devosses, the Taylors, the Bexleys, the Barnes, the Merritts, the Hendersons, the Greers, the Irvins, the Faughts, the Faulks, the Huffs, the Bakers, the Laynes, the Camerons, the Frechts, the Witchers, the Upshaws, the Cottles, the Rydens, the Harrisons, the Hoopers, the Carrells, the Bryants, the Todds, the Denmans, the Wilsons, the Portillos, the Frosts, the Wagners, the Days, the Schuetzes, the Webbs, the Hornes, the Dicksons, the Baumgardners, the Millers, the Burks, the Garners, the Hipps, the Powells. Special thanks to Scott Lane, Stephen Carrel, Letha Crouch, and Don Guthrie. And of course, to Danny and Peggy Bobbitt and Emily Upshaw, our most heartfelt condolences. We all share in this terrible loss together.
Yet our lives are more than what is animated in this flesh. Amanda is not gone, only gone from her body. We strive unto eternity to reunite with those whom we long for the most. Until we meet again, Amanda, thank you for blessing our lives. Thank you for who you were.
Since I wrote this article, the memorial service for Amanda took place in San Antonio. I was able to be there for it, and it was a beautiful service, a fine way to say goodbye. I reunited with many old friends, and we all had a nice time remembering Amanda. Phillip sang in the service, and Robby spoke briefly of his memories of Amanda before reading a few verses. Don Guthrie gave a beautiful message/eulogy, and Aaron Hufty led us in some fine hymns.
Amanda touched the lives of so many of us, who grew up with her, and who watched her grow up. We are sorry to say goodbye, but we are grateful for the time we had. Life is such a gift, and we are but players on the great stage. So stand tall and sing out, my friends.